The Planning Authority's removal of two banners calling for justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia and her work was in breach of the fundamental right to freedom of expression, a court ruled on Tuesday. 

It ordered the PA to pay compensation of €20,000 to the murdered journalist's family. 

The first banner, erected by the Caruana Galizia family on a private property in Valletta in March last year read:  "Why aren't Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi in prison, Police Commissioner? Why isn't your wife being investigated by the police, Joseph Muscat? and "Who paid for Daphne Caruana Galizia to be blown up after she asked these questions?"

It was removed by the PA on April 7.

A similar banner was erected on April 15, 2018, only to be removed by the PA within hours.

The Caruana Galizia family sued the PA, claiming breach of their fundamental right to freedom of expression.

In the course of the proceedings, the court heard how the order to remove the banners came from the Planning Authority’s top official.

Charles Gafa, the Planning Authority’s principal direct action officer told the court that the order was given by the authority’s executive chairman Johann Buttigieg.

Madam Justice Lorraine Schembri Orland found that the Planning Authority's reaction was unjustified interference, disproportionate in a democratic society and a breach of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The PA was ordered to pay compensation of €5,000 to Mr Caruana Galizia - Daphne's husband -  and each of their three sons.

The family welcomed the decision. 

"We hope that today's important judgement inspires people to demand that the government respects the law and the inalienable rights of its citizens. We hope, too, that the government will use its power to ensure - and not inhibit - justice for Daphne," the family said in a statement.

Lawyers Jason Azzopardi, Therese Commodini Cachia and Eve Borg Costanzi appeared for the Caruana Galizia family.

 

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